Health statistics and information systems

About the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project

A consistent and comparative description of the burden of diseases and injuries and the risk factors that cause them is an important input to health decision-making and planning processes. Information that is available on mortality and health in populations in all regions of the world is fragmentary and sometimes inconsistent. Thus, a framework for integrating, validating, analysing and disseminating such information is needed to assess the comparative importance of diseases, injuries and risk factors in causing premature death, loss of health and disability in different populations. Countries can combine this type of evidence along with information about policies and their costs to decide how to set their health agenda.

The first GBD 1990 study quantified the health effects of more than 100 diseases and injuries for eight regions of the world in 1990. It generated comprehensive and internally consistent estimates of mortality and morbidity by age, sex and region. The study also introduced a new metric – the disability-adjusted life-year (DALY) – as a single measure to quantify the burden of diseases, injuries and risk factors. The DALY is based on years of life lost from premature death and years of life lived in less than full health. This study was updated by WHO for the years 2000-2002 and included a more extensive analysis of the mortality and burden of disease attributable to 26 global risk factors using a consistent analytic framework known as Comparative Risk Factor Assessment (CRA). The WHO estimates were subsequently updated for the year 2004, see The global burden of disease: 2004 update and the Global health risks reports.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and other academic partners have collaborated on a new GBD 2010, published on 14 December 2012, which provides regional estimates of deaths and DALYs (using a new method for calculation of DALYs) for the years 1990, 2005 and 2010. These estimates contributed to WHO global health estimates which were published in 2013.

WHO has prepared a comprehensive and consistent set of DALY estimates for years 2000–2012, consistent with and incorporating UN agency, interagency and WHO estimates for population, births, all-cause deaths and specific causes of death as well as WHO estimates for some specific diseases and analyses carried out for the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study. A summary of methods is available here. Regional cause-specific DALY estimates for the year 2000 and 2012 are available for download here.